THE Kingsley Chanda Commission of Inquiry investigating corruption at the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) yesterday heard that the authority single-sourced a Chinese firm called Nuctech to supply and install the Nakonde border scanners at a cost of more than K130 billion (US$25.6 million).
Appearing before the commission that sat for the first time at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka yesterday, Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) director general Samuel Chibuye also said another firm, Bradwell Global Corporation was single-sourced to manage the system contrary to the law.
President Michael Sata formed the commission of inquiry to probe ZRA last month after he had stopped the institution from paying K4 billion to Bradwell Global Corporation that was engaged to manage the scanners at Nakonde border post in the Northern Province. Mr Chibuye said the former commissioner-general informed ZPPA in writing in 2008 that he had been directed by the Zambian Government to single-source on the basis that the scanners would be procured using a loan from China.
He said in the letter, ZRA said the instructions were that the Chinese government wanted Nuctech to supply the scanners, contrary to the requirements of the law that tender procedures must be followed even when a project was secured through a loan. Mr Chibuye told the commissioners that the Zambian Government then should have informed the Chinese government that the Zambian law requires that a firm engaged to supply and install goods worth that much should not be single-sourced.
Asked by Mr Chanda what he had done having realised the illegality as head of ZPPA, Mr Chibuye said his decision would have been shaped by the justification and it was clear that there were questions to be answered in the transaction. He said in his letter of April 15, 2009 the commissioner-general had sought a waiver of authority for the installation of four scanners but sought further authority for four other scanners and ZPPA does not know up-t-date how the other four were procured.
He, being new in his position, ZRA clearly knew that he would not understand that the earlier contract provided for four scanners and when they sought a letter, they stated that authority was being sought for eight scanners without explaining the contents of the old contract signed with Bradwell Global Corporation.
Mr Chibuye also said the board of directors for ZPPA stands technically dissolved following the change of Government because the provisions were that the board should be composed of ministers responsible for finance, works and supply, commerce, secretary to the Cabinet, attorney general, Bank of Zambia governor, a permanent secretary at the ministry of finance and two individuals from the private sector.
And in her submission ZPPA acting director of inspections and standards Gloria Ngoma said open tender system for huge amounts exceeding 30 billion could only be single in a state of emergency, when national security is affected and when the goods are of specialised nature.
She also disclosed that advance payments were not encouraged unless the contractor provides guarantees for the payment. Vanguard Investigations Limited managing director James Kasamanda submitted that all security covert private security firms had been stopped systematically from tracking operations at ZRA because of alleged increased corruption.
Captain Kasamanda said grand corruption takes place at the lower management level where individuals were paid to engage in illegality. He said at the time his firm worked with ZRA, it was discovered that firms that owed ZRA huge amounts of money were being erased from the computer after paying some officials about K15 million each.
President Sata last month dissolved the board of directors of ZRA and appointed the commission of inquiry to probe irregularities at ZRA. The members that sat included Sangayakula Sanga, Peggy Mulongoti, Martin Lukwesa, Agness Musunga and Fredrick Chishala. The sittings continue today.
Times of Zambia